Monthly Archives: July 2011

The True Test of This Quest

Back in my more friendless days, the true reality of my local situation hit hardest whenever Matt left town. It’s not that I was totally dependent on my husband, but when he would head out of town for a long weekend with his high school buddies, that’s when my weekends suddenly got quiet. No date nights or plans with his coworkers to mask the truth. Weekends consisted of me, TV and some brunches with my Mom.

You’re jealous, I know.

This weekend is one of those weekends. Matt is in Las Vegas for his BFF’s bachelor party and I’m flying solo. The good news is that if nothing else, this is one of those markers that reminds me how far I’ve come. Last night, I hosted my cooking club for our second annual make-your-own-pizza night (get the recipes here). Tonight I’ll be seeing Harry Potter with two of my ex-work BFFs (I’ll be the one in the “Muggle” T-shirt carrying the Ginny Weasley wand). Saturday will be quiet, but there are potential plans with potential BFFs. I’m not worried. And Sunday will be saved for my little bro.

This is the kind of weekend I dreamed of once upon a time. Not too cramped, but not too quiet or lonely either. I’m equally excited for the solo time as I am for all the friend dates. A fantastic blend.

When the tables are turned–when I’m out of town and Matt’s fending for himself–his days are much different. I think. It seems men don’t get the same sense of friendship longing that women do. Or perhaps it takes longer for their loneliness to set in. Not sure. Unfortunately, I’ve never been in their heads.

The point is, I’m excited for the chance to extend invitations and make phone calls to those friends I worked so hard to meet last year. The “my new BFF” question is still lingering, but if I’m looking for someone for a last-minute playdate, at least I have some phone numbers.

That’s more than I could have said last year.

When you have a weekend to yourself, how do you spend it? How much “friend-time” is your ideal?

3 Comments

Filed under The Search

Keeping Secrets From Your Bestie

I’m good at keeping secrets. Other people’s, that is. I suck at keeping my own. Every time I try to keep a secret about myself from friends, I end up spilling immediately, before they even have a chance to inquire. The conversation goes something like this:

Me: Hi!

Her: Hey there!

Me: Ok, I can’t hold it in any more, I have to tell you something and I have to tell you now.

I know. Never send me across enemy lines.

Clearly I’m not a very private person. You probably figured that out when I started blogging on this here Internet. People who are private, who would never fill everyone they knew in on all the news of their lives, have always boggled my mind. How do you not share? Don’t you need to get it out? Catharsis!

I don’t have many secrets, personally. My life is boring. But nowadays, whenever I say the words “I have to tell you something but you can’t tell anyone” I get the same response:

“Are you pregnant?”

Oh, how times have changed.

I’m not encouraging you to keep secrets from your BFFs. Trust is a big deal in a friendship, and the main purpose of having a local bestie is having someone to whom you can spill your guts over lunch.

But sometimes things do happen, like pregnancies (and, let’s make this LOUD AND CLEAR: No, I’m not pregnant. Promise!) or new boyfriends. Things you want to hold off on sharing until the time is right, or at least until there will be no judgment. Or, maybe you’re like a friend of mine, who held off on sharing that she applied to grad school until she got accepted, so she wouldn’t have to tell everyone each time she got rejected. (Which was, like, zero times. Smarty pants. But just in case.) I understand the sentiment, but I can’t do it. I’m a sucker for girl talk, what can I say? It’s what we love about me?

My question to you, today, is twofold: 1) What types of secrets have you kept from your best friend? 2) How did you get yourself to hold back and not spill the beans. She’s your best friend, after all! It’s no easy feat.

5 Comments

Filed under The Search

The Hard Facts: What Kind of Friend Are You

It’s Research Wednesday! Where I share the latest, or most fascinating, in the science of friendship.

“You probably look for different things from your friends: nuturing qualities, wisdom, the ability to make you laugh. So what do they turn to you for? See what style of friendship you offer (you may find that you are a blend of styles), plus pick up some expert advice geared toward your ‘type.'” (“What Kind of Friend Are You?” Real Simple)

I love a good quiz. I was that girl who subscribed to Seventeen, YM, Teen and Sassy simultaneously, and filled out every single quiz, including “Is Your Boyfriend Cheating on You?” when I didn’t even have a boyfriend.

Womens magazines are decidedly short on quizzes these days, don’t you think? I’d really rather have In Style or Women’s Health tell me which jeans I should be wearing, what I should eat for breakfast, and where I should head on my next vacation than have to make these decisions on my own. I want to know what kind of decision-maker I am, who my celebrity soul mate is, and whether I’m a good wife. And I want my magazine to be the one to tell me.

Enter Real Simple‘s “What Type of Friend Are You?” quiz. Just fill it out—quick, easy—and it will tell you all you need to know regarding how you interact with others, why you’re fab, and what you could do better.

Me? I’m The Confidante, according to RS. “The beloved mothering type who everyone turns to when things go wrong.” I’m not so sure. Yes, I love a good tete-a-tete with a pal, but I wouldn’t exactly call myself the nurturer. That said, I do love a good talk-it-out therapy session. I’d rather have dinner with a friend than go dancing. When Callie and Sara asked what I wanted for my bachelorette party, I thought the answer was obvious: “A slumber party!”

Real Simple warns me to “beware of people who take advantage of your generous spirit. … If you’re entrenched in the mothering role, you may not be getting what you need.” I have to be honest, this write-up gives me too much credit. I may love a good heart-to-heart, but I do my fair share of talking about myself. I’ve never once worried that I was the friend to whom everyone vented but no one ever listened. Still, I like this confidante label. I’ll take it.

It’s fun to turn friendship science on yourself every now and then. Take the quiz and then share your “type”! Think it’s accurate?

11 Comments

Filed under The Search

Technology Killed the Friending Star

Obviously I love technology. I’m a regular blogger, a lover of Twitter, and my iPhone might as well be surgically attached to my hand I have so much trouble putting it down. I’m not proud of this. I know it annoys my husband, that’s for sure.

I say this all as a preface to this post, to make clear I know I’m partly (largely?) to blame.

Now that that’s out of the way…

I’ve noticed recently that I’m having a friendship problem I never would have encountered when I made friends the first few times around–in high school, summer camp, college. Here goes: Some of my new friendships have become so dependent on email/IM/facebook/text as a means of communication that we’ve lost our face-to-face social skills.

I have a handful of friends with whom I can endlessly banter via one of these techy mediums–our emails are witty! our texts are poetic!–but in person it is simply awkward silence. We’ve developed relationships so dependent on technology and that backlit screen buffer that when we’re just sitting at lunch, face-to-face with nothing to shield us but our turkey sandwiches, we don’t know what to say. Screens have backspace buttons and buy you time. Conversation gives you one shot to say the right thing, and if you don’t, there’s no way to delete it. You’re stuck.

What’s frustrating is that these slightly tension-filled get-togethers are so hard to understand. Everything is perfect online, why can’t we be the same in person? What’s holding us back? It feels like an elephant at the lunch table.

I was at such a meal last week, and I almost thought aloud, “Weird that we suddenly have nothing to say.” It seemed one of those unnecessary verbal gaffes that could only make an awkward moment moreso. Remarkably, I contained myself.

I love emailing. Writing is my medium, so I really do like getting to know someone over a letter–even if it’s an electronic one. But I don’t think that my being a journalist is what’s causing the problem. I think we’re all just adjusting to the decreasing emphasis put on face-to-face interaction, eye contact, and personal attention.

So, please share, is it just me? Or have you found yourself stuck at a lunch, wishing you could text your friend-date from across table, just to break the ice?

9 Comments

Filed under The Search

Being Friends With Boys, Revisited

In the early days of this blog, I addressed one of the most obvious friendship questions: Can a man and a woman be best friends?

At the time I was staring down the barrel of a year-long friend quest. Actually, by the time I wrote this post, I was almost through month three and had no new male friends to speak of. I was on the fence regarding the whole When Harry Met Sally debate.

Over a year later, I’m still unclear. It seems a question worth revisiting, at least in the wake of my search. In all my friending, I made one—count ’em! one!—platonic straight male friend. I met him when I joined a social group for young Chicago Jews. He was the leader of my group and lives around the corner from me. So we hung out at our meetings, which were weekly for about two and a half months. These days we see each not more than every couple of months, but I’d certainly consider him my friend. We text every now and then, and have lunch sometimes when he works from home. It’s all very exciting.

There’s absolutely no sexual tension in this relationship. He’s met Matt, he’s only known me as a married woman, and, most importantly, we’re just not each other’s type. Being friends is a no-brainer. And Matt’s certainly not jealous. (As I mentioned in the previous post, Matt’s not the jealous type. So much so that sometimes I have to ask “aren’t you at least a little jealous??” I mean, come on.)

The only other guys I’ve become independently friends with since moving to Chicago were either 1) co-workers or 2) gay. I had a few “work husbands” during my 9-to-5 days, though it’s perhaps worth pointing out that each one switched jobs not long after our office-marriage began. Coincidence, I’m sure.

Despite these friendships, I still don’t think I could have met a straight man this year who could have become the kind of best friend I’m looking for. Daily phone calls or emails, weekly playdates? What I know is that when I hear of a woman whose best friend is a man, I wonder. I’m not saying they’ve all had, you know, relations, I’m just saying that it’s the natural question. And I’m not sure I want a friendship surrounded by that much speculation and grey area.

I guess my new take is that a man and a woman can be just friends, but it’s the rare case. A true deep, meaningful friendship between the sexes is tricky and might be asking for trouble. What you may think is platonic, after all, he might think has the potential to be more.

(Though, to be clear, that’s not the case in my new friendship. That’s for real platonic. Just to clear that up.)

What say you? Man, woman, newly acquainted, just friends. Possible? Or no?

6 Comments

Filed under The Search

Friendships and Divorce

It must be a sign of the times. Or my age. No, the times.

I just found out about the first divorce amongst my friends. Not between friends, thank God, so I don’t have to pick a side or anything. I’m only friends with her. But still, it’s my first friend who is getting divorced, and that makes me sad.

I mention this because I got an email from a reader recently (obligatory side note: If you have topics you wish I’d write about, please, email me!) about how the majority of her friends are divorced, and it’s weighing on her friendships. See, she’s been married for over 20 years, and suddenly her newly-single friends are only interested in going out on the town and scoping the scene for eligible bachelors. Probably not your first choice outing after 20 years of marriage. I’ll admit, it’s not my first choice after only two years (almost).

While this reader says she has plenty of friends to spend the days with on weekends, her nights have gotten much quieter. Couple friends for Saturday night dinner are no longer. Her single friends don’t want to go out with her and her husband and feel all third-wheely, and apparently they’d rather go out with other single ladies. What’s a married girl to do?

My vote would be to try and make girl-on-girl dinner dates with these friends, perhaps for a Friday night, but it may have to be during the week. Unfortunately, this is the way things are right now. Those divorced friends are going to want to go out and meet potential mates. and that makes sense for them. It also makes sense for this reader, she married of 20-odd years, not to want to do those things. So, my advice, is either to accept how things are right now, as frustrating as that may be, or go out and try to make new couple friends. Maybe at a cooking class or some other couple-oriented activity. Or through a friend. Maybe invite a coworker and her husband out to dinner one night. Making couple friends is like making regular friends. It’s tough. It takes work.

Luckily I haven’t encountered this problem yet. I’m still mentally preparing for the whole babies-will-change-friendships aspect of adulthood. To think that divorces will come with their own set of problems? Yikes.

My first divorced friend, the one I mentioned earlier, will be moving to Chicago soon. I don’t think her new marital status will affect our friendship too much since she has plenty of single friends in Chicago to prowl with. I get the sense we will be more sushi-on-a-Thursday-night friends. Fine by me. I love me some sushi on any night.

Do you have advice for the reader whose friends are all divorced? Please share! And what do you think, does divorce change friendships?

7 Comments

Filed under The Search

Friend-Date Pet Peeves

I try, really hard, to be open to new people. I make a concerted effort to give everyone a chance.

Back when I started this search I found myself writing people off quickly and for no valid reason. Before I’d even met someone, it would often seem perfectly clear to me–from a sentence in an email, an age difference, whatever–why we were likely a bad fit. I learned pretty quickly to get over that. If I wanted to make new friends, I was going to have to be open to new friends.

I’m better now. Usually. But there are some friend-dates where one particular thing will go wrong at the very beginning and that’s it. I can’t bounce back. Or I can, but it’s tough.

My pet peeve? When someone is really late to meet me and doesn’t apologize. If I’m waiting for 20 minutes past the agreed upon start time, and you arrive and say “I’m so sorry I’m late, really, it’s just that my cat pooped itself and I had to clean it up just as I was leaving”? Fine. I’ll tell you not to worry about it and move on from there.

But if you waltz in 20 minutes late and act like it’s standard, and don’t even offer a courtesy “sorry to keep you waiting”? To me, that’s rude. I get that everyone is late everywhere these days and punctuality standards have lowered. I don’t like it, but I get it. Still, is it so hard to just offer a quick apology?

The thing about this pet peeve, though, is that it can ruin a friend-date. Because when someone shows up and acts like it’s normal that she’s 15 or 30 minutes behind schedule, and that it’s no big thing that I’ve been waiting this whole time, I get really flustered. I’m so expecting some recognition of the situation that I have trouble shifting gears and jumping into conversation immediately.

Perhaps this is largely my fault. Maybe I shouldn’t stand on ceremony, as my mother-in-law would say. (Is that the correct use of that phrase? Idioms make me feel old.) It just irks me, and then I’m off on the wrong foot with a friend I don’t even know.

I don’t have many pet peeves. There are few things a potential BFF could do that would make me rule her out too quickly or start the date with a sour taste. But I’m not perfect. We’ve all got stuff, and I guess this is mine.

What’s yours? Is there something a friend-date could do (or has done) that would get you started on the wrong foot? What’s your girl-date pet peeve?

13 Comments

Filed under The Search

I Have a Book Cover!

I’m interrupting regularly scheduled blog programming because I have something I can’t wait to show you.

MWF Seeking BFF has a cover! Ever since this book journey started, I’ve always said that it won’t feel real until there’s a cover. Something tangible to prove that one day, in 2012, this little paperback will actually be in bookstores. Well, the time has come.

I have to say—and I can say this because I had so little (read: zero) involvement in its design (and also because, you know, we’re friends)—I love it. I’ve heard plenty of horror stories of authors hating their covers, but instead I want to make the designer my best friend forever, conveniently.

As you can see (or maybe you can’t, if you’re reading this in a feed reader) I’ve updated the header of this blog to match. I’ve also updated the About the Book page so it’s even easier for you to pre-order the book, if you’re so inclined. I’m still navigating the whole book business, but I’ve learned that all pre-order sales count towards first week sales, and first week sales are the most important. So, if you are planning to buy it anyway (and I so hope you are!), won’t you consider pre-ordering? (Kindle readers: The links here are for the physical books, but if you click on the Amazon link, the Kindle version is there too.)

If you’re still not sure you want to read MWF Seeking BFF, might I direct you to the bottom of this page where you can read some advance praise? Perhaps the likes of Gretchen Rubin and Sheila Weller can convince you.

Either way, thank you, thank you, thank you, as always, for reading this blog and not thinking I’m a crazy loon with my tales of awkward hugs and rented friends. I am so grateful.

49 Comments

Filed under The Search

We Can’t Always Be Friendly

I have a confession to make.

Sometimes when I unexpectedly see someone I know, I put my head down and walk in the other direction.

For all my talk of making new friends, there are times when all I want to do is run an errand and come home. Or to be anonymous and have no one see my no-makeup, frizzy-haired, mismatched-shorts-and-t-shirt self.

It’s not that I would ever be purposefully rude. It’s just that if I didn’t expect to run into any familiar faces, sometimes I’m not in the right mindset. Or the best physical state.

Just this afternoon I ran into a classmate from my high school days in the airport. It was totally random that we would see each other in Logan airport, as we’re both from New York and now he lives in L.A. and I live in Chicago. But we both have family in Cape Cod, so there we were, catching up at the food court. Not having planned to do much socializing during my travels, I wasn’t looking my hottest. But more importantly, I hadn’t really turned “on” yet. Regardless, we caught up briefly, met each others’ significant others, and went our separate ways.

In this case we both spotted each other in the same moment and made eye contact, so there was no avoiding  chit chat. And I’m happy to have talked, because this old friend and I had actually been in touch recently via Facebook. But had it been just about any other old classmate (at least one not in my grade, as was the case here), and I would have very likely stared purposefully at the floor and  gunned for the gate.

All this said, I must give myself a virtual pat on the back for getting better about these hellos in the first place. Back before I started friendsearching, I was most definitely the “pretend not to see you” type. I  kept to myself when on the go. These days I really will talk to anyone, and often the “is it you?” comes out before I’ve consciously decided that I’m going to talk to whichever familiar face crosses my path.

I’ll also say that, in the past, when I’ve chosen to pretend not to see a familiar face, I’m quite sure that said face hasn’t spotted me. That way we avoid awkwardness. Which is, you know, my lifelong goal.

The best was the summer Matt and I first moved to Chicago. I was short on friends and was in between jobs. I was always on the lookout for familiar Northwestern folks, so clearly I noticed when an acquaintance (is there a middle ground between friend and acquaintance? This guy would be it) came ambling toward me when I was out doing errands. Being in need of friends, and having made eye contact, I got ready to say hello. And, just as he approached me, this guy put his head down and started whistling.

Whistling! As if his jovial tune was going to convey that he was so caught up in the blue skies and happy days that he hadn’t seen me directly in his line of sight.

Sure thing.

I wasn’t offended. I was entertained. It struck me as hilarious that this guy resorted to a movie-style whistle to get out of a quick catch up and perhaps some small talk when he had so clearly spotted me. But I couldn’t hold it against him.  I’d been known to try something similar. Sans whistle, of course.

These days I try to go out of my way and say hello, as you really never know who your next BFF will be. But I’m not gonna lie, I’m not perfect. Some days I just hide under some frizzy hair and go on my way.

What about you? Do you ever put your head down and speed up when you recognize someone from afar? Or are you far far friendlier than I?

11 Comments

Filed under The Search

Big Things Come in Small Favors

Yesterday I had an encounter that would have seemed like nothing, once upon a time.

I was at lunch with a new(ish) friend. Perhaps that’s not a fair label anymore, as we met over a year ago—during my yearlong search—and have become good pals in the months since. When she got to lunch, she told me  had a favor to ask.

“Could you give me a ride to the train?”

The train, mind you, is about a five minute drive away. It was a small request. No big deal. (Or NBD, as the kiddies say.)

My friend, lets call her Mia, was heading to the train in a few hours, at about 4 pm. She knew I work from home, so my schedule was flexible enough to give her a quick ride, and asked if I would mind.

I didn’t, of course.

Like I said, it’s not that interesting of a story. I took special notice, though, because asking someone for a ride to the airport has become one of my measures of friendship.

Back when I spoke to GirlfriendCircles founder Shasta Nelson for the first time, she told me that the reason she started her site is that she was the life coach for a handful of women who all were missing the same thing: a nearby support system. It wasn’t that they didn’t have someone to call crying in the middle of the night if necessary, it was that they didn’t have someone to ask for a ride to the airport. “And a ride to the airport’s not that big a deal!” Nelson told me.

She was right. The airport-ride test is an interesting one. It’s not that big of a request, really. It’s just a ride. From my Chicago apartment,  it’s about a 30 minute drive each way to O’Hare. So an hour out of your day, half of which you get to spend gossiping with a friend. And yet, asking someone you don’t feel especially close to for a ride feels like a monumental request. Not quite a kidney, but you know… not not like a kidney, either.

Of course, what Mia asked for was an airport-ride divided by, like, 10. Or, actually, 6. But still, the fact she asked made me feel swell. Friendy. Like this search is continuing to move forward.

One small step for man, one giant leap for… Mia. Or something.

Have your friends performed any small favors, or asked any of you, that showed you your friendship was moving forward?

Oh, and Happy 4th of July, friends. See you on Tuesday!

10 Comments

Filed under The Search